Two weeks ago, I was headed to the track when a text from my dad made me do a double-take.
“Dwayne Haskins died,” he told me.
“No way,” I thought — until I opened up Twitter.
As I scrolled through my feed in disbelief, my tears were quickly replaced with vexation when I came across ESPN insider Adam Schefter’s breaking news tweet about Haskins’ death:
“Dwayne Haskins, a standout at Ohio State before struggling to catch on with Washington and Pittsburgh in the NFL, died this morning when he got hit by a car in South Florida, per his agent Cedric Saunders,” Schefter tweeted.
Schefter later deleted the tweet and sent out a new message that omitted his previous claim about Haskins “struggling to catch on,” but the damage was already done. The original tweet already had over 20,700 quote tweets and 37,500 likes at the time he deleted it.
It is unfathomable and frankly disrespectful to break the news of a person’s death with such a gross characterization. A human being died, and all you can think to tweet is that he struggled to catch onto a football team?
The pain Haskins’ teammates, coaches, friends and family are in after their loved one died suddenly is indescribable, so for Schefter to add this analysis is shameful (not to mention that that’s how he chose to open the tweet, which is only more disrespectful).
Schefter is completely unjustified in what he tweeted. Not only was it bad taste, it was misleading. It made it seem like he was breaking the news of a trade, not the tragic death of a 24-year-old.
But it just follows what we have known all along about sports personalities: they view athletes as pawns, not people.
Schefter isn’t the only media personnel who spoke of Haskins as if his sole purpose in life was to throw touchdowns. Former Dallas Cowboys Vice President of Player Personnel Gil Brandt took to the radio to display his even more disgusting take on Haskins’ passing:
“He was a guy that was living to be dead,” Brandt said on NFL radio. “Maybe if he stayed in school a year he wouldn’t do silly things [like] jogging on a highway.”
Not only was Brandt’s statement inaccurate — Haskins was not taking a casual stroll on the side of the highway, as Brandt said; his motorcycle ran out of gas, so he went to look for a gas station nearby — it was also disturbingly insensitive.
Brandt’s comment was pure crass. How was a man who was chasing his dreams living to be dead? And, more importantly, how do you refer to a man who is no longer with us in such a negative, careless way?
Both men have since issued public apologies, but their comments say everything we need to know about how people view athletes.
We view them as entertainment value, not people.
Time and time again, we see athletes judged for every move they make, but we never allow them to take off their jersey and just be… people.
It wasn’t just Haskins who was so poorly and disrespectfully treated; his former teammate, Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool, received massive amounts of hate for a post he made after Haskins’ death.
“It’s OK to not be OK,” Claypool said in his tweet, which was attached to a video of him crying. “Allow me to be the example.”
Unfortunately, his courage to display his mental health resulted in backlash. Instead of being given the time to grieve and heal like anyone else, keyboard warriors immediately voiced their opinions.
“New era of society is very strange nowadays, this is how we grieve now? Seems like some soap opera move to me y not call his family and cry with them not randos on social media,” one user wrote.
“Idk why people record themselves crying, it’s like ‘oh I’m sad let me take out my phone and get the angle right and hit record and show everyone I’m crying, hopefully I don’t stop the video too soon or drop my phone and have to start over.’ I personally find it funny honestly,” another one said.
But there’s nothing funny about Claypool’s grief. And these reactions to it are unacceptable, plain and simple, and highlight yet again that we view athletes’ sole existence to entertain us on game days.
When did we become so disconnected as human beings that we can’t let someone grieve? Athletes are people, too. We all have emotions — it’s human nature.
We need to reevaluate the way we talk about athletes.
Athletes are people, too.
Kayla Sterner is an assistant sports editor and can be reached at email@example.com
Kayla Sterner is an assistant sports editor at The Spectrum. She is studying communications with the hopes of being a sideline reporter. In her spare time, she can be found in the gym, watching football or vibing to Mac Miller. Kayla is on Twitter @kaylasterner.